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I have created this site in order to provide performers, listeners and composers with a description of a composer's experiences with the creative process. The posts will provide discussions of the inspirations, challenges, and successes of a composer from the inception of the piece to the culmination in performance. I will provide a link to where you can see and hear the works in progress. Comments and questions are always welcomed. They will not posted unless you grant me permission.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Amphibians for Band Movement II

This blog post is about a composition that I am writing for the Band For Today Honor Wind Ensemble. Band For Today http://www.bandfortoday.com/ provides Chicago area schools with band and piano programs and I am honored to have been commissioned by them to compose this composition. I will be attending the premiere on April 18, 2015.

I wanted to write a composition that would have both appealing titles and music for young musicians. I settled on a composition called "Amphibians" that has two movements; "Frogs and Toads" that would use croaking sounds as well as leaps and "Salamanders" that will have music representing scurrying and swimming.

Here is the poem I wrote that can be read by a narrator before this movement:

II. Salamanders

Salamanders and lizards look somewhat the same
Both have slender bodies and very long tails
But salamanders are unique the scientists exclaim
How so? Please provide us with some interesting details

Did you now that they can regenerate their limbs
And some can absorb oxygen through their skin?
Researchers are examining the methods they use
To help humans heal like their amphibian kin

Many salamanders are endangered and that’s very sad
Pollution, climate change, and human behavior the cause
The lack of respect for our Earth makes me mad
Conservation efforts are helping, but we need tougher laws

This movement is a tribute to these marvelous creatures
It skitters along in a salamandering way
With moments for reflection the slower sections feature
Ending with hope that they won’t fade away

I decided to use a chromatic 4 note motif to represent the swimming salamander. This motive is very present throughout the first 16 measures (A Section) and this section repeats. At measure 17, the B section begins by developing the motive by just using two notes in a repeated pattern. Measures 25-32 do the same thing but a step higher therefore adding some tension. The 3/4 measure at 32 adds a little rhythmic variety. The A section returns at measure 33 and is extended before slowing down to the Andante at measure 49.

Before discussing the next section, I want to mention that I came across a special video about salamanders while doing some research about them. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icvo6zxLpFM This video showed the variety of these animals and their importance to humans. It also mentioned their endangerment and conservation efforts. I was very moved by this video and decided to musically portray the endangerment and hopes for conservation as part of this composition.

Measures 49 - 73 constitutes the C section of the movement. It is in a slow 3/4 and its main melodic material consists of descending scales and intervals representing concern of the salamander's endangerment. This section also contains a rising chromatic line in quarter notes that is a transformation of the scurrying descending chromatic idea of the A section. It is more sluggish and represents the salamander's battle for survival. The tempo speeds up between measures 74 and 81 returning us to the A section once more.

Measures 98 to the end (Section D) are more triumphant, celebrating the fact that conservation efforts are working. It is primarily in 2/4 with some 3/4 measures added for variety. The chromatic swimming motif is used in several places during this final section.

I export my Sibelius Music Notation file as a movie (new to version 7.5). I also use Noteperformer software for the sounds. These are sample sounds, but the software also includes an algorithm that reads ahead in the music and phrases the music according to context, therefore making the realization closer to live performance. I  upload these videos to youtube and embed the video for each movement. Be sure to use full screen mode for easier viewing of large scores. I hope that this technology allows the reader to have an easier experience and a more realistic performance. To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/Amphibians_blog.html

As always, your comments are appreciated.
Dr. B

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